I recently surveyed leaders of corporations I work with to learn about their top priorities as they planned for employees to return to their offices.
One of their top concerns was how to build high-trust teams in the ever-evolving new workplace, where they may rarely see some team members in person.
The reality is we can’t just go back to the office and operate in old, familiar ways, from communication protocols to policies, because employees are choosing different options as to where they want to be located when they are working.
The following are 3 options employees are choosing when given a choice about where they want to be located:
(1) in-person at the office (full-time),
(2) remote (never or rarely come to the office), or
(3) hybrid (work in the office 1-3 days a week).
Teams will most likely consist of a combination of employees who have selected one of those options. Teams will have to figure out best practices in how to be clear and inclusive in expectations, communications, policies and procedures.
Leaders and their teams must focus more on ways to strengthen connections and build trust in a work world that can still feel chaotic and disconnected.
If you’re a leader, consider using these 3 strategies to increase trust among team members and minimize the emotional distance:
1. Be Intentional About Inclusive Communications.
Be proactive about “who needs to know what/when/where” to avoid creating in-groups and out-groups, as a result of all team members not being in the office.
When everyone was remote, it was easier to keep communications well organized; however, things are more complex now with some team members coming back to the office full-time, some working in the office a few days a week and some never coming into the office.
It could be very easy for you to share more with team members you see often in the office; however, if information sharing becomes unbalanced, it could negatively impact the identity of those who are not at the office full time (hybrid) or those who never come in (remote).
Being “out of the loop” of communications could create perceptions that somehow they are less valued team members.
This could damage your relationships, erode trust and encourage team members to update their resumes!
Bottom line, be inclusive in your communications as much as possible to demonstrate transparency and connect often with all team members because doing so builds trust!
2. Be Clear About Your Expectations as to HOW Work Will Get Done.
You and your team(s) probably got into a rhythm of how to get work done when everyone was remote; however, those ways of working may no longer be as efficient or effective with geographically dispersed team members.
Roles may also need a tune up as you and your team(s) figure out the best way to share information, accomplish work and complete projects. For example, a team member who is coming in every day to the office may have access to resources or people that would allow him or her to more easily take on new tasks.
A review of roles, responsibilities and work processes could be a great team building and trust building exercise!
Also, encourage your team(s) to try new things, while acknowledging some may work well and some may not. Managing team members’ expectations about this time of re-entry will require experimentation. Everyone will learn from successes and failures as to how work can be best accomplished in the new normal.
Giving team members opportunities to pilot new processes/procedures also demonstrates that you’re trusting them to help co-create the new normal.
3. Be Deliberate with Frequent Trust-Building Activities.
If people trust each other, they are naturally more interested in supporting and helping each other.
Create your own list of quick trust-building activities. Choose activities that help team members become more familiar with each other, so they feel connected, even though they may never be in the same physical space.
You can have some activities that you use during zoom meetings, and some that you use on the rare occasion where you have all team members together at an in-person retreat. One example of a quick trust-building activity you can use on a zoom call with all team members would be to kick off with a 1-min. check in. That check in could be a lighthearted “share one thing you did this past weekend” that replaces the Monday morning water cooler chats. This allows team members to safely disclose something outside of work about themselves while personalizing their connection.
When everyone is in the office, it’s much easier to have impromptu lunches, company celebrations, happy hours, team member appreciation spotlights, etc. Schedule those same activities via zoom so everyone has equal access to participate regardless of where they are located. Doing those kinds of activities helps build trust among team members and with you as their leader; however, you can deepen trust with each team member if you schedule one-on-one meetings on a regular basis.
Yes, the new normal will ask a lot of you as a leader, especially in how you build high-trust, collaborative teams where no one feels left out, or less than, regardless of where they are located.
Focus on being clear, consistent, and inclusive with your communications and in your behaviors to show your team members that you care about them as people first, and that together, you’ll figure out whatever the new normal at work should be.
And…if you do those things, you will be well on your way to building a very solid foundation of trust between you and everyone that works with you.
If you’d like to know more about how I help leaders advance their EQ skills, build high trust relationships even with remote employees, and achieve greater success, schedule a 15-minute call with me at https://go.oncehub.com/call-with-jennell-evansor email me at email@example.com.
Together, we can figure out if I can help you in your leadership journey.
All the best,
Jennell Evans, MA, CMMI
Emotional Intelligence | Mindfulness | Remote Leadership
Advisor & Speaker
P.S. If you want to learn about EQ, download my free eBook, High EQ = Better You, for a succinct overview of EQ, why it matters, and what behaviors indicate you have it at www.jennellevans.com/#free-ebook